Prescription pain killers: far riskier than gun ownership

If Americans are so happy, then why do we consume 80 percent of the entire global supply of prescription painkillers?  Less than 5 percent of the world’s population lives in this country, and yet we buy four-fifths of these highly addictive drugs.  In the United States today, approximately 4.7 million Americans are addicted to prescription pain relievers, and that represents about a 300 percent increase since 1999. If you personally know someone that is suffering from this addiction, then you probably already know how immensely destructive these drugs can be. Someone that was formally living a very healthy and normal life can be reduced to a total basket case within a matter of weeks.

And of course many don’t make it back at all. According to the CDC, more than 28,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2014.  Incredibly, those deaths represented 60 percent of all drug overdose deaths in the United States for that year… [Read more]

One of the most beat to death gun control arguments is “Your odds of dying go WAY higher if you have a gun in the home! No one should own guns, guns are deadly!”

Now replace the word “gun” with “opioid-based painkillers” – yes, I mean the Percocets, Vicodins, Oxycontins, and all the others. Now your argument is somewhere between 5 and 107 times as pertinent, depending on the classification of suicide, and addiction/accessibility.

Most people who use these arguments are simply regurgitating what they hear second-hand and/or are spoonfed by the mainstream media or whatever progressive outlet they choose to read. The truth is, they are largely ignoring or do not know about the danger of painkillers and other drugs in the home.

They are also ignoring obvious statistical trends, which show that while gun death rates are falling and have been for years…

Pew Research US gun violence since 1990

Deaths from opioid-based prescription painkillers are climbing rapidly, and have been for years…

National Institute on Drug Abuse US overdoses since 1990

Arriving at any number on total opioid-based prescription drug usage is extremely difficult, as there is no conclusive data as to the number of people who use them annually. The black market resale value of prescriptions, size and duration of prescriptions, and the potential access of household members to the drugs, makes any measure difficult, and I haven’t found any outlet that’s even attempted to try to measure the percentage of households with prescribed opioid-based painkillers. Its also important to note that a household with a gun has the gun year round, at risk to anyone in the household, while the opioids have much more limited household accessibility, as the addiction numbers show.

There are about 4.7 million people “addicted” to opioid-based prescription pain relievers, as per the cited Zero Hedge article. If we calculate a death rate only for those addicted to opioid-based prescription painkillers, and use the figure in the above chart citing 18,893 deaths from prescription opioid-based pain relievers, we come up with 402 per 100,000. While this number is obviously extremely high, this example is pertinent solely because it is indicative of the types of calculations used by progressive media to inflate the danger of guns in the home, which usually use the assumption that you can only die via gunshot if your home has a gun.

The addiction statistics aren’t accurate, however, and there are no conclusive numbers on the number of people prescribed to opioid-based painkillers in the US, and not in treatment for abuse. A roughshod calculation, citing 7 out of 10 of the 320 million Americans taking prescription drugs (yes, you read that right), and 13% of those being opioid-based painkillers, puts you at slightly over 29 million Americans prescribed opioid-based pain medications annually. In addition, the majority of opioid-based prescriptions have very limited durations; my younger brother had one for a broken wrist, I had one for wisdom teeth removal, each prescription provided only about 10 low strength pills with no refill. Despite the true number of households per annum with access to painkillers in the medicine cabinet being much lower, we will go with 29 million as the number of people whose household has an opioid-based prescription painkiller, in lieu of more conclusive data.

Using that figure, you get a household opioid-based prescription death rate of 65 per 100,000. And that assumes the high number of 29 million people with access. Also, suicides need to be broken out of both opioids and gun deaths – you can kill yourself any way you choose, and neither guns nor opioid-based painkillers are a prerequisite to do so. The CDC cites that 77% of poisoning deaths are unintentional accidents, 13% are suicide, and 9% are of “undetermined intent.” To give the benefit of the doubt, we’ll say just one third of the deaths of “undetermined intent” are indeed accidental, and go with an even 80% being accidental. That figure gives you 15,114 of last year’s opioid-based prescription deaths as accidental overdoses or homicide, or a rate of 52 per 100,000 within households with opioid-based painkillers in the medicine cabinet.

We’ll do the same exercise for guns, assuming that only people whose households own a gun can die as a result of one. To boot, we’ll use the low number of 34% of households with a gun (slightly under 109 million people), even though the NRA and other sources dispute this and put the estimate as high as 40-45% of households with a gun. Given that about 33,000 people die on average annually due to firearms related injuries, your death rate for households with one or more guns is 30 people per 100,000. If you break out the approximately 21,000 suicide gun deaths annually from these statistics, the household gun death rate is 11 people per 100,000. If you use a low estimate of 25% of gun victims not having a gun in the house, now you have a death rate of 7.5 per 100,000 for households with one or more guns. This is all using gun the highly questionable ownership and fatality rates from the progressive media, of course.

Editor’s note:

Live Science has a great article about your odds of dying from various causes and a lovely accompanying chart. You will notice that “suicide” is a tiny 2% of the pie. To put this all in perspective consider that in the US there were 41,149 suicides in 2013 of which 21,175 were committed using firearms. Compare this with “homicide by firearm” which is only 11,208 (see page 41).

This means the risk for death by homicide involving a firearm for general population at large was approximately 3.5 per 100,000 in 2013. You can imagine what happens to this number if you were to deduct all the homicides that occur in liberal gun control zones like Chicago (455 or more than 4% of the national total for 2013), Detroit, Baltimore, Washington DC, New York City, the entire state of California and so many others where it is nearly impossible to own and carry a handgun. The simple fact the liberal progressive parasites are always trying to obscure is that more [legal] gun ownership along with the right to carry results in less crime, not more.

Your odds of dying

However, as I pointed out above, those household gun death figures are completely bogus and are much higher than reality. For the obvious reason – you can’t die from prescription painkillers if you don’t take them, but anyone can kill you with a gun (including your local police, who kill 1,100 annually with guns Editor’s note: 2015 saw more than 1,200 killed by police.) Including suicides, the gun death rate for all Americans is about 10 per 100,000 Americans annually. Breaking out suicides and including solely homicides, accidents, and “other” sources of gun deaths annually, you get a gun death rate of 3.75 per 100,000.

Even if you take the figures including suicide, and you assume that you can only die from a gun if your home has one, you’re still more than twice as likely to die from prescription opioids. Pull out suicides, and you are about 5 times as likely to die from opioid-based painkillers than a gunshot. Say 75% of gun victims had a household gun, and now you’re 7 times as likely to die from an opioid-based painkiller than a gunshot wound.

And all this is not even factoring in that my calculation of 29 million people with access to prescription opioid-based painkillers annually is likely extremely high. Or the fact that I’ve taken all of the progressive media estimates on gun ownership and fatality rates. I challenge anyone to tell me that my number is low and that there are more people with access to painkillers in the home at any given time than the figure I’ve cited; the truth is, a more accurate measure would likely push the number of households with access to these painkillers even lower. Higher estimates on gun ownership, which has likely gone up in the past few years, using the increase to over 20 million background checks per year as a measure, would show that painkillers are far more deadly in the home than guns are. And remember, even if the gun saved your life from a violent attacker, the gun control outlets and their statistics I’ve used will include that in their gun death data. Good luck getting the painkillers to do that.

So before you give me the same recycled argument from the progressive websites about how unsafe it is to have a gun at home, check your own medicine cabinet for whatever Perocets, Vicodins and Oxycontins might be in your house first. Even if you need the medications to listen to your argument about guns in the home, statistically speaking, you’d be much safer if you flush the medications down the toilet than you ever would be by removing your gun, regardless of your opinion on the causes of gun deaths.

Note: The numbers in this article are solely focused on deaths caused by legal opioid-based painkillers (19,000 annually as of 2014). Total overdose deaths are about 47,000 annually – Illegal opioids (heroin) account for another 9,000 deaths annually, and there are about another 19,000 whose overdose deaths are any other substance, whether its Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), cleaning solvent, or any number of prescription medications in your cabinet. Despite my focus on opioid-based painkillers, there are plenty of other substances you should toss out of the medicine cabinet and under the kitchen sink before you sell your gun, as the everyday household is filled with things besides painkillers that are far more likely to kill you than the gun is.

If you liked this article, be sure to check out Gun Control and Mass Shootings in Perspective.

Bad Medicine by Ben Garrison

Duane Norman

Duane Norman is a thirty-something, straight, white male living in the northeastern US, and is a staunch advocate of free markets and legal gun ownership. Duane founded Free Market Shooter and occasionally contributes to Single Dude Travel on issues related to freedom, liberty and the basic human right to self-defense.

You may also like...

  • Ammar Tours

    Thank you for updating! I really happy to read about this post. Cheers!

  • Duane Norman–obama-rejects-governors-proposal-to-limit-painkiller-prescriptions-013838383.html

    Just in case you were wondering if the President was more concerned with kowtowing to big Pharma than he is with saving lives…

  • Harold Parks

    You know what, this seems bogus. I have been on painkillers for 16 years, I am on ONE time release 32mg and TWO instant release 10mg a day for failed back syndrom, extensive nerve damage, spinal cord injury and degrading of my spine as every day goes by. I am sick to death of the negative press the painkillers get because legit pain management patients like me are the ones suffering. They are putting INSANELY low amounts of morphine based painkillers you can be prescribed per day at a number so low that just my 32mg ONCE A DAY painkiller is OVER the maximum recomended dosage per day according to some progressive study.

    What are legit patients like me suppose to do? Jam down crazy amounts of non opioid meds that do not work and cause MANY more complications, or sit here and suffer with a spinal cord injury because people are abusing painkillers? These people abusing these meds are NOT legit pain patients, they are just abuserd, addicts, and its usually built into their DNA. What am i and the rest of the people that really need these meds to function suppose to do when they are taken away? I know, we will be forced to turn to Heroin! Thats exactly what this kind of thing will lead to. The reason people that use painkillers turn to Heroin is because they were taken off their painkillers and need to find relief. Heroin is 1/4 the price of street painkillers, so what do you think pain patients that are taken off the meds that REALLY work going to turn to? You guessed it, Heroin. Its assbackwards thinking like this towards legit pain patients that will force them into a life of illegal drug use because believe me, those synthetic pain killers do not work at all.

    But they will put you on INSANE amounts of methadone as a painkiller, yup, the same stuff that they use to get heroin addicts off of Heroin, how does this make sense? Huge amounts of Methadone are what pain patients are being given instead of what worked. again, how does this make sense? Methadone turns you into a zombie, i know i tried it and it is a JOKE for pain relief.

    In the 16 years i have been on painkillers i have NOT ONCE thought of taking my LEGAL pistol out and committing suicide, but people being taken off their legal painkillers that they actually need for pain is causing GUN suicides and more overdoses from Heroin.

    Seriously, what the hell are these people making our health decisions thinking? You can NOT use a one size fits all LEVEL of opioid,s per day for every person on painkillers, things like weight, age, length of usage, male, female, ALL factors that make every single person different, it just makes the people that really need these meds needlessly suffer!

    Theres going to be a BIG spike in heroin overdoses and users if the pain clinics keep adopting this ones size fits all dosage rule from what i consider BOGUS studies. I can tell you this, when i am taken off of what works for my pain and allows me to function with my kids and friends and family, just because of the insanely low price of Heroin, i myself might have to resort to using it if legal forms of pain relief are taken away from us legit CHRONIC PAIN patients.

    Sorry for any spelling errors.

    • Duane Norman

      You seem to have missed the point I was getting at, and to be fair, maybe I should have clarified my opinion in the article.

      I personally don’t give a shit what medications you are taking, or what your dosage is or whatever, and it is absolutely none of my business to tell you what you should or shouldn’t take. The main point I was getting at was on the other side of that coin; you have absolutely no business telling me how many or what type of guns or other weapons I have a right to own.

      As you are someone who is both a gun owner AND a user of prescription painkillers, the only thing I was trying to point out is that the prescription painkillers are FAR more dangerous, and FAR likely to kill you than the gun is by any statistical analysis. If you take a look at the analysis I did, the calculations are done with an extremely high estimate of households exposed to prescription pain medications. They also are done with a low estimate of households exposed to gun ownership, and assume that you can only die via firearm if your home has one.

      If you were to do an accurate accounting of households that have access to prescription painkillers, an accurate accounting of households that own a gun, and also account for and remove anyone who was killed by a firearm whose household did not have access to one from my analysis, you would find that your odds of dying from the painkillers are even higher than whatever my highest estimate was.

      In regard to your comments on suicide, you should note that while I did my analysis both with and without suicide, with the odds being higher that the painkillers will kill you either way, my principle argument focuses on the analysis that does not include suicides. I will write about this at a later date on this website, but the reason for that is that there is no statistical correlation whatsoever between suicide rate and gun ownership anywhere in the world. The only correlation you can find relating to guns/suicide is that gun ownership results in a higher GUN suicide rate; apparently if you own a gun and are suicidal, you are more likely to blow your brains out as opposed to jumping off a cliff, in front of a train, taking a whole bottle of your pain meds, or however else people decide to off themselves. If I wanted to kill myself, I’d personally choose to skydive without a parachute – almost zero chance of a failure, and it seems like a more fun way to die. But maybe that’s because I’m not suicidal and I actually enjoy life.

      Your pain medication dosage seems high and fits the profile of addiction, but its not my place to tell you or your doctor how much pain medication you should be taking. You should understand the risks of your medications, but quite frankly, I don’t give a shit if you do or do not; like I said, its none of my business how you choose to live your life.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I don’t know what caused your condition, but hopefully your health improves. My gut feeling is you recognize the dangers of your medication and would likely do anything to alleviate your condition and stop taking it.

      • Harold Parks

        yah your first point would have cleared up a lot. The point of someone telling me what i feel is what i need(and it is a very low dose compared to what i was on i asked to be lowered from 80mg a day to 52) to take for my pain, and someone telling you how many guns you can own must have gotten lost on me in the article. My whole point is that every time i turn around theres tis big, in your face article staring me in the face and i see Painkillers and Guns in one article and my blood boiled. I feel the same, no one should have the right to tell me what to take for my pain(and it is off the chart) and also tell me how many guns i should own. I almost need a dealers license because my safe is pretty big lol.

        Sorry if i went on a tangent, but after breaking my back in 97 and then working two years with it broke, with two cord injuries because i felt i needed to provide for my kids no matter what, was a motivator. Until i collapsed in pain one day and could not get up. 8 failed surgeries later(one was procedure was done only two other times times in the US). I feel i am getting shit on by these addicts. I agree also, that no one, not a single progressive piece of trash has the right to tell me, or push on me their warped understanding of the second amendment, and even begin to lecture me on my guns and how many “they” think i should have. Hate to say it, but i have been shit on by my dictator and chief here in NY, the draconian law passed in the dead of night has left NY gun owners feeling like we are the criminals. Overnight, they made my two teenage sons criminals for having .22 cal rifles that look like AR,s.

        • Duane Norman

          Every article has a bias, and I thought my bias towards gun rights was rather obvious. I’ll make it a point to be a bit more obvious where I stand in the future, thanks for bringing that to my attention.

          While your situation is very awful to hear about, and it really sucks that you have to go through what you’re going through, the chart I included on national overdose deaths is the reason you’re hearing what you’re hearing in the news. Opioid-based prescription pain meds are overprescribed, commonly abused, and are killing tens of thousands annually, and the number keeps going up and has tripled in the last 15 or however many years.

          Like it or not, even your reduced dosage is rather typical among patients who have been addicted to these pain meds. Overdoses resulting in a hospital stay number close to 1,000 daily nationwide. As long its as highly prescribed and prevalent as it is, the news
          stories are not going away, just like presidential candidates calling
          for all sorts of gun regulations aren’t going away for us either. For the record, I
          hear the nonsense gun control arguments WAY louder than I hear about prescription opioid
          abuse. Even though my guns are FAR less dangerous, as my article

          You already know the stuff you’re on is the same shit that’s in morphine and heroin, its really addictive and deadly stuff. Just like you know the dangers of firearms. Its on you to make your own decision, whether its taking pain meds or owning a gun.

          If you read my bio, you would see that I’m also a gun owner residing in the Northeast US. I know that NYC and NY State gun laws are the worst. While I don’t condone breaking the law, and don’t do so myself, the NY Safe Act is likely impossible to enforce.

          There are several states in your immediate vicinity (Pennsylvania and Vermont, among others) that are much more friendly to law abiding gun owners, and with much lower taxes and cost of living. If your condition doesn’t have you working anyway, you should look into getting the hell out of NY – about the only place that isn’t facing migration out of state is NYC, which has always been a transient migrant city in its own right.


%d bloggers like this: